The Dark That Dwells (Book Review)
by Matt Digman / Ryan Roddy
Sci-Fi Fantasy, 2020
3 / 5 Stars
I read this on my Kindle (hence the percentages).
I DNF one out of maybe one hundred books and unfortunately, this was one of them. I want to say right off the bat that I think it’s more me than the book, but I’m going to explain why I stopped at 45% because I think that’s fair to do rather than just a DNF and a star rating.
The novel is rife with description and it’s clear the world-building was a major focus of the novel. There is a really cool aesthetic mix between classic fantasy and futuristic technology. Despite the fact I wasn’t sure why a bow was a good weapon in a world with firearms, I loved the idea of a futuristic bow with a quiver that responded to voice command and provided specialized arrows. The magic system was also very intriguing.
I also loved the shapeshifting demon-thing named Hermes and the battle scenes were very well done and exciting.
Where I lost interest was the characters, unfortunately. I couldn’t get a bead on Fall, the main character; I thought he was middle-aged until about 35% in and I wasn't sure what a Ranger did as job. While I wanted to like the characters, there was something preventing me from knowing them deeper and thus I got bored because I didn’t care about them. Perhaps I didn’t understand their motivations enough or what was propelling them, especially the soldiers Ban and Becks.
I also am not a fan of “high fantasy” descriptions. I am more of a “just tell me it’s armour and I’ll make it up myself” kind of person, so my eyes glaze over when there’s a paragraph devoted to setting the scene. This is not a flaw of the novel but a stylistic choice that isn’t my preference. Some people will love this and that’s totally valid for sure.
The story itself was interesting and I am curious about the end result, but I just don’t have the urge to pick up the novel again. I kept looking at the percentage left more than reading it, and that told me it was time to set it aside. I feel bad, but I gotta be me.
(This did not contribute to my rating or DNF, but it’s just something that I have to point out. The use of phallocentric language I found rather distracting in a “future” setting. It was always “crewmen” instead of the gender-neutral “crew”. And a few times there was “man-sized” versus “human-sized” as a description of another being. As I said, this didn’t contribute to my rating or DNF, as it was minor, but it happened enough I found it distracting. The editor should have picked up on this [I say this as an editor in a well-meaning way - I miss things too, we're all human]).